Caritas report shows food crisis in Niger still critical

 The food situation in Niger is still critical, according to a new report from Caritas Development Niger. It seems that abundant rains in recent months have brought no improvement because it will be some months before next harvest and at least 1,900 villages are suffering now from a serious food shortage. 2.7 million people are in a situation of food crisis and of these 900,000 are in extremely serious conditions and situations. The rest are in alarming conditions which call for constant attention. An emerging concern is the health situation. "The impact of the food shortage on health has been underestimated and most aid focused on providing food overlooking the health risks connected with malnutrition" the report says. The most widely diffused diseases are malaria, meningitis and cholera. In the first six months of this year there were 224,221 cases of malaria and 327 deaths; 1,036 cases of meningitis and 115 deaths; cholera 99 cases and 10 deaths. Most of the people with Malaria and pregnant mothers and children under five. On the level of farming swarms of locusts and other insects have caused serious damage and putting next harvests at risk. In this situation Caritas Niger relies above all on local volunteers members of Committees for Development and Solidarity CSD active in every parish in Nigeria. Their work is to inform first of all. They travel all through the parish on a bike, by taxi and even on the back of a donkey to identify drought stricken areas and discern the most urgent needs. On the basis of an emergency map plans are made for intervention to solve problems as well as promote real development. Caritas Niger hopes its contribution will help guarantee that in ten years time cyclic periods of drought will not mean a crisis like the one today. Caritas volunteers are men and women, lay and religious, Christians and Muslims, professionals and self taught persons with a degree of economic independence and a desire to help local development and improve living conditions of their fellow-citizens. These people devote some of their time to working on Committees for Development and Solidarity. Caritas Niger has received aid from various Catholic agencies: Caritas Internationalis, national Caritas of Austria, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Nigeria and Rwanda, and from the Vatican (Cor Unum), the Italian Bishops' Conference, Roermond diocese in Holland and the governments of Austria, Norway, Luxembourg and the special administration region Hong Kong. A Spanish association, Pharma Mundi sent 2.6 tons of medicines. Source: Fides

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